Anshel Pfeffer

Analysis: If it was Mossad, then was it a success?

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 18, 2010

Israel almost never takes responsibility for mysterious killings in the Middle East. To do so would only cause diplomatic and security problems and reveal operational methods.

As it is, most of the targets have multiple enemies and whoever's finger was on the trigger, Israel will be blamed.

There is one major exception to this rule: sometimes things go dramatically wrong and the only way to release a captured agent is to own up.

Did the assassins who eliminated the Hamas arms smuggler, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, mess up? Operationally, no.

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Rabbi blasts 'ignorance' at weddings

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 18, 2010

Rabbi Ovadia Yossef has attacked the "ignorant" manner in which the custom of breaking a glass under the chupah is often carried out during religious wedding ceremonies.

The most prominent Sephardi rabbi in the world and the spiritual leader of Shas, 89-year-old Rabbi Ovadia Yossef published his public criticism of religious wedding services in Yom Leyom, the weekly affiliated to the Sephardi Shas party.

He singled out the breaking of the glass, which is meant to remind all those present at the celebration of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

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US gets its allies into line over Iran

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 18, 2010

If the frequency of high-level talks between Israel and the US is anything to go by, we seem to be in for a very tense period in the region. This week it was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, in Israel for talks with the heads of the defence establishment. Next week it is going to be Vice President Joe Biden.

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Israelis warned of terror attacks abroad

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 18, 2010

Israelis have been warned that there is currently a heightened possibility of a terror attack on an Israeli or Jewish target abroad.

The Counter-terrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister's Office has issued a general travel warning, not connected to a specific country, which tells Israelis planning to spend time overseas that the probability of an attack will rise around the second anniversary of the killing of Hizbollah operations chief, Imad Mughniyeh, mid-February.

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Analysis: War talk reveals Israeli fear of a Syrian front

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 11, 2010

Thousands of Israelis flocked last week to the Golan Heights to enjoy the first major snowfall of the year, but not all of them returned home safe and sound. One family, eager to slide down a pristine white hillside, inadvertently entered a minefield and two of its children stepped on anti-personnel mines. A boy lost his foot and his sister sustained extensive shrapnel wounds.

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Israel bans fur imports, except for Chasidic hats

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 11, 2010

The Israeli government is going to forbid manufacture, import and export of all kinds of furs, with one exception: Chasidic shtreimels, or fur hats.

A new law forbidding all manufacture and trade in furs in Israel is one of the strictest of its kind in the world and was approved on Sunday. It is an extension of a previous law prohibiting the use of cat and dog skins.

Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon explained that the inspectors had trouble distinguishing between the different kinds of furs and that Israel should not be supporting “a cruel industry”.

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Israeli expats may get voting rights

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 11, 2010

A new law proposed this week by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to allow Israeli citizens living out of the country to vote in the elections could cause a split in his own coalition.

Israeli law allows only official representatives of the government to vote outside the country. Various proposals in the past to allow expatriate voting for the estimated one million Israelis living abroad have never garnered enough support.

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Giora Eiland: ‘Jordan should take charge of Palestine’

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 11, 2010

When Giora Eiland says that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is currently impossible, he speaks with some authority.

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Military expert on Goldstone report ‘severely biased’

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 11, 2010

An investigation by an Israeli think tank has alleged that the military expert on the UN’s Goldstone Commission, Desmond Travers, was so biased against Israel that the commission’s report was a travesty of the truth.

And in an interview last week, Colonel Travers — who retired from the Irish Army in 2001 — accused “Jewish lobbyists” of strongly influencing Britain’s Middle East policy.

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EU 'funding Palestinian terror’

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 4, 2010

The British Taxpayers’ Alliance pressure group has joined the Israeli campaign against European Union funding for the Palestinian Authority’s education system, which they claim includes incitement against Israel.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance Chief Executive, Matthew Elliot, visited Israel this week and held meetings with officials at the Foreign Ministry to co-ordinate the campaign it is running, with additional European organisations, against the lack of transparency in the PA’s use of EU financial support.

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Charity funded groups that ‘assisted Goldstone’

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 4, 2010

The New Israel Fund has come under fire for financing human rights groups that supplied the Goldstone Commission with information regarding alleged war crimes by the IDF.

A student organisation, Im Tirzu, which bills itself as a “centrist” movement “working for the renewal of Zionist ideals”, this week published an analysis of the Israeli sources in the UN report on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

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Analysis: Israel hands UN detailed rebuttal of Gaza allegations

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 4, 2010

Israel has handed the United Nations a detailed rebuttal of the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza last year.

The document denied the main allegations made by the committee headed by Judge Richard Goldstone: that Israel had intentionally targeted Palestinian civil infrastructures; that the IDF had committed dozens of alleged war-crimes; and that these incidents were not being properly investigated.

Israel has to inform the UN imminently what kind of commission it plans to set up to investigate the findings of the Goldstone Report.

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Israel's Chief Rabbi 'We'll stop conversion reversals'

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 4, 2010

The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Amar and the new attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, have agreed on new guidelines limiting the powers of rabbinical courts to revoke conversions.

Under the new guidelines, if rabbinical courts question the validity of a conversion carried out by the special conversion courts, the decision will be referred to the president of the Grand Rabbinical Court, Rabbi Amar. He will decide on a special forum of dayanim that will rule on the specific case.

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Analysis: Israel will be blamed for Hamas murder

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 2, 2010

Hamas leadership and the international media, understandably, immediately accused Israel’s Mossad of being behind the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room two weeks ago.

There is no shortage of reasons for this. Mabhouh, for the last six years, was the main Hamas operative in the complex arm-smuggling organisation linking the Gaza Strip and Iran. Israel’s intelligence services have been fighting a major campaign against this pipeline, largely in secret.

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Netanyahu sues media over wife's staff abuse claims

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 28, 2010

Pressure piled up on PM Binyamin Netanyahu this week as it emerged that another household employee is suing his wife, Sarah. The Netanyahus responded with a libel suit and a complaint to the Israeli Press Council.

Two weeks ago, the former housekeeper of the couple’s weekend home in Caesarea filed a lawsuit which included potentially embarrassing claims about Mrs Netanyahu’s behaviour at home. This was soon followed by a slew of media reports focusing on her personal relationships with members of staff and her influence on the prime minister’s policy-making.

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Netanyahu ‘blasted’ Gilad Shalit negotiator

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 28, 2010

According to reports, Israel’s senior negotiator in the talks to free captured soldier Gilad Shalit was severely criticised by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for overstepping his mandate.

The negotiator, Hagai Hadas, had initially agreed to some of Hamas’s demands before being censured by Mr Netanyahu, who appeared to blame him for offering too much to Hamas.

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Analysis: IDF prepares for another Goldstone war

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 28, 2010

Thirteen months after Operation Cast Lead ended, the IDF is bracing itself for a new round of demands to set up an independent commission of inquiry into its actions. Meanwhile, Israel’s diplomats are gearing up to ward off new attempts to use the Goldstone Report as a lever for putting the country in the dock.

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Chabad excommunicates rabbi

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 28, 2010

A new schism emerged last week in the Lubavitch movement in Israel following reports that one of the leaders of its “messianic” stream had stopped fasting on days marking the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Gedalya Axelrod, a leading Lubavitch rabbi in Haifa, published a letter last week saying that “according to halachah”, Rabbi Zimroni Tzik, who runs the Chabad House in Bat Yam, should be excommunicated.

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Israel ‘not ready’ for a major earthquake

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 28, 2010

The Israeli Defence Ministry will hold a national earthquake preparedness exercise this year, in response to the Haiti disaster. Experts estimate that between 20 and 50 per cent of Israeli buildings are not built to withstand a large earthquake.

Israel is situated in the northern part of the Great Rift Valley in an area which historically has known devastating earthquakes. Seismological experts are convinced that a large-magnitude earthquake in Israel in the next few decades is all but inevitable.

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Peace talks on hold as Obama admits failure

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 28, 2010

Senior Israeli officials have acknowledged that the chances of a resumption of high-level talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the near future are very slim.

US envoy George Mitchell, who made yet another trip to the region this week, also played down expectations.

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